Bell Labs & Google: bookends of the same sad story? 


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


When I finished reading this (must-read) wonderful profile of Bell Labs, the singular most iconic research institution of the modern era, I was left wondering — just because you invent the future, it doesn’t mean you get to enjoy the benefits from it, nor does it guarantee that future generations will remember your contributions.

For decades, Bell Labs, the Murray Hill, New Jersey-based center for innovation, has come up with breakthroughs that have propelled society forward. The transistor, the laser, and the UNIX computer operating system are three in a list of endless things that we use daily. The digital camera can trace its origins there, not to mention
“At first sight, when one comes upon it in its surprisingly rural setting, the Bell Telephone Laboratories’ main New Jersey site looks like a large and up-to-date factory, which in a sense it is. But it is a factory for ideas, and so its production lines are invisible.” — Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, in his 1958 book, Voice Across the Sea.
Founded in 1925, Bell Telephone Laboratories was the science and communication research arm of the Bell System, jointly owned by AT&T and Western Electric. At one point, this institution employed 15,000 people, many of whom worked on technologies and breakthroughs that earned the researchers 10 Nobel Prizes, five Turing Awards, and more than 20,000 patents. When AT&T was split up, Ma Bell retained ownership. Later, Lucent Technologies became its owner. Alcatel merged with Lucent, and eventually, the (Read more…)